Amid the widespread pandemic, nations worldwide have been operating under similar prevention measures to combat COVID-19. Yet, some are more effective than others, and the results are clear. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghana showed how it is collectivistic and holds personal responsibility for its citizens. On March 16, Ghana began to lockdown non-essential businesses and schools to prevent an outbreak as COVID-19 reached the nation.  As of June 4, 2020, Ghana confirmed 8,297 cases and 38 deaths. In the process of easing restrictions, Ghana allowed communities to reopen schools and universities on June 5 with social distancing guidelines. Here are seven ways Ghana is minimizing COVID-19 cases and is rearing up reopen.

7 Ways Ghana is Minimizing COVID-19 Cases

  1. On March 16, Ghana banned public gatherings altogether. The government also implemented travel restrictions to prevent any further spread of COVID-19. Ghanaian residents who traveled outside the country were required to quarantine for 14 days. All schools and universities were also closed indefinitely.
  2. On March 23, Ghana shut down all borders to travelers. This measure kept tourists from other countries from bringing the virus into the nation and allowed Ghana to focus on the infected citizens at hand. The border closures also assured COVID-19 did not spread from Ghana to other countries. By closing its borders, Ghana was able to determine diagnosed cases and isolate them from other populations.
  3. On April 2, Ghana received a donation from the World Bank to support its short-term and long-term responses to COVID-19. The overall contribution amounted to $100 million. Of this donation, $35 million was used for emergency improvements to the nation’s healthcare systems that they have in place for pandemics.
  4. The Ghana Emergency Preparedness and Response Project (EPRP)  launched through the World Bank’s provisions. The EPRP will be the blueprint for developing technologies that detect and survey COVID-19. Additionally, EPRP will cover outbreak reports to keep essential information streamlined. The initiative provides free support for COVID-19 patients who cannot afford medical or social care. The project will work to raise awareness on COVID-19 prevention measures and safety guidelines for any future outbreaks.
  5. As of April 13, Ghana administered approximately 44,000 tests for the COVID-19 virus. The comprehensive testing put Ghana significantly ahead of the curve. Making sure the majority of citizens tested for the coronavirus was how Ghana was able to obtain an accurate number of COVID-19 cases and quarantined as needed.
  6. In early April, the president announced a 50% salary increase for any healthcare workers on the front line. Nana Akufo-Addo, the present of Ghana, also told the public early on in the pandemic that Ghana would be tax-free for at least three months. Free water was also promised and supplied to anyone in need of it while on lockdown.
  7. Urban areas within metropolitan cities like Accra shut down late March to prevent any further spread of the virus through public transit. The Ghanian government kickstarted an awareness campaign to encourage social distancing and constant sanitation, such as washing your hands, to prevent viral transmissions. Wearing masks when going out for essential supplies was also highly emphasized in the campaign.

While countries worldwide are following similar prevention measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, Ghana, among other nations, was able to reopen earlier than expected. Ghana is minimizing COVID-19 cases and can reopen because of citizens’ and health workers’ commitment to implemented prevention measures. The Ghanaian government has also worked diligently to raise awareness and create proper prevention measures for rural and metropolitan areas alike. Ghanian citizens are provided with clean water, medical treatment and free counseling services to ensure social distancing measures are followed, and citizens remain healthy amid the unexpended circumstances. Due to its early lockdown and comprehensive testing, Ghana continues to lessen its COVID-19 cases and is heading toward a promising future.

Kim Elsey
Photo: Flickr

Everywhere one looks in the news media, the word inequality is beamed into television sets, either through the banter between detached pundits or through the bullhorns of activists storming littered streets.

Brought to the forefront of policy debates after the full force of the Great Recession was being felt, the rising, global inequality between the rich and the poor has stoked the powerful emotions of the disenfranchised.

And now, a French professor, Thomas Piketty, is ratcheting up the debate even further with a massive tome designed to showcase just how vast the gulf between rich and poor has become.

The book is called “Capital in the 21st Century” and in it Piketty attempts to address the reasons behind the trend of rising inequality throughout the world during the past decade.

And people’s ears are perking up; the book reached number one on shortly after its release.

Oxfam recently released a report detailing the harm global inequality is inflicting on the lives of the poor, as well as its effect on governance. Oxfam notes that 85 people in the world collectively own the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population.

They note that stocks and corporate profits are continuously climbing, while wages have stagnated. And one of the most prominent concerns among the public is the over-representation of the wealthy’s concerns in governments around the world.

But has there been no progress? Has the state of those inhabiting the poorer regions of the world not changed at all? In reality, many things have changed for the better in the past several decades.

Between 1981 and 2008, the amount of people living on one dollar a day fell by 750 million. That is astronomical progress, but if one looks between countries rather than within, the inequality gap is as big as ever.

So what can be done? Many people have lost faith due to a perceived shift in political power away from the average voter and toward the wealthy and politically connected. Despite voters heading to the polls again and again, politicians routinely implement policies that do nothing to truly address rising inequality.

This happens despite the fact that most people agree great inequality is undesirable; most view its alleviation as a good thing, so long as the policies are sensible and do not harm the overall economy.

Many individuals complain of vast oligarchies setting policy against the average man, but fail to show up at the voting booth (a problem in America especially).

It’s more important to show support for policies and politicians that will actually implement effective and sensible policies to reduce inequality than to simply bemoan the current state of affairs.

Policies such as the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit in the United States, and increasing social spending in poor countries to actually reach those in need are just a couple things that can alleviate inequality.

The policies are there. It is simply up to the public to remain informed and active within their respective societies.

– Zachary Lindberg

Sources: Oxfam, The New Yorker, The Guardian
Photo: Salon

2015 House Budget Cuts
In its recently released April 2014 newsletter, Bread for the World voiced its “deep disappointment” for the 2015 fiscal year House budget proposal. This proposal, introduced by Representative Paul Ryan, makes deep cuts to programs that help poor and hungry people in the United States and abroad.

The budget proposal cuts over $5 trillion over 10 years and calls for many changes to low-income programs. These policy changes will kick an estimated four million people out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, program. The changes to SNAP are significant, as assistance will now come in the form of a federal block loan and will not be able to increase should need arise. Negative impacts also reach Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and low-income tax credits.

The House’s proposal also cuts the International Affairs budget by 11 percent. Decreases to the International Affairs budget are detrimental to the success of food aid and other humanitarian efforts and undermine U.S. ability to fight poverty in the world’s poorest countries. The proposal also moves the Millennium Challenge Corporation to the position of lead agency for foreign development assistance, diminishing USAID’s role in ending global hunger.

Although many agree that federal spending is out of control, David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, believes that pulling funding for programs that support the most vulnerable is clearly a poor reallocation of resources. “Fiscal responsibility means not sacrificing our commitment to reducing hunger and poverty for the sake of reducing a deficit that vulnerable people did not create,” Beckmann states. “Lawmakers must stop violating the basic principle to protect ‘the least of these’ in budget decisions, which Congress has adhered to in all major budget agreements over the past 30 years.”

– Madisson Barnett

Sources: Bread for the World, Bipartisan Policy Center
Photo: PennLive

land grabbing
Natives of Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley are having their way of life threatened by state-run land grabbing projects designed to develop the area. The valley consists of the traditional lands of the Bodi tribe, which is being forced into government-run villages. These natives have no one to help them; the government’s wants only destroy their land.

Much of the development is being allocated to state-run sugar plantations. In the last 15 months, most of the tribe’s traditional lands have been wiped out. The repercussions of the government’s move will likely affect more than just the 7,000 members of the Bodi tribe.

The development consists of the construction of not only sugar plantations, but a large dam within the Omo River basin. The construction of the dam is projected to be the most devastating of the government projects. It will take the majority of the water present in the river basin with the potential to affect over 500,000 Ethiopians.

No social impact studies were done prior to the implementation of the project, the consent of the tribes occupying the river valley was not obtained and absolutely no one has received any type of compensation for the hardship endured by the forced relocation.

The dam, named Gibe III, will be responsible for adjusting river flows to aid commercial agriculture in the valley. Some believe that this will cause a severe shortage within neighboring bodies of water.

Lake Turkana is situated nearby and is expected to experience a severe drop in its water level. Some are expecting the further development of sugar plantations to result in a water level drop of 16 to 22 meters.

Due to the project’s controversial nature, it has failed to receive funding from many institutions outside of Ethiopia. The World Bank, African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank all decided not to fund the project. However, China’s Industrial and Commercial Bank (ICBC) has come through to provide funds.

Sadly, the development of the Omo River Valley is just a footnote in the long list of human rights abuses the Ethiopian government has inflicted upon its people. The government routinely makes a sham out of its “democracy” with one party winning elections time and time again despite the presence of other political parties.

Criticism of the government is routinely punished. Many journalists have been tossed in jail for simply highlighting government abuses. One journalist, Eskinder Nega, received an 18 year jail sentence for criticizing the government. There are also frequent crackdowns against the Muslim minority who have peacefully protested for the freedom to worship.

There does not seem to be much the average Ethiopian can do to evade the impact of this land grabbing development project. Barring intervention by diplomatic forces outside, the Chinese-backed development project will go on as planned and thousands of innocents will suffer for it.

– Zachary Lindberg

Sources: The Huffington Post, Human Rights Watch
Photo: Any Uak Media

January’s “Polar Vortex” broke records for the lowest temperatures in many cities that had lasted for 50 years to 100 years. Millions of people across the East coast and Midwest endured temperatures much below normal and all 50 states experienced freezing temperatures. Southern states, not used to freezing weather, were ill-prepared to handle it. Fox News reported that there were 21 deaths related to the cold. The homeless population was particularly vulnerable. America’s poor suffered the worst effects of the extreme cold weather; not only the homeless, but also families on social assistance and the working poor.

Cuts to Energy Assistance

Many low-income families across the country were not able to heat their homes this winter due to last year’s budget cuts. In 2013, Congress cut funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program by $155 million. Since 2010 funding for this program has dropped from $5.1 billion to $3.32. While many families cannot sufficiently heat their homes, approximately 300,000 families cannot afford to heat their homes at all.

Both the number of households receiving aid and the amount of aid households receive has been cut. Since 2010, the percentage of heat covered by the Low Home Income Energy Assistance Program has dropped from 52.5 percent to 41.5 percent. As this funding has been cut, the cost of fuel has gone up; the cost of electricity has risen by 7 percent since last year and the cost of natural gas has risen by 14 percent.

Low-Income Families Struggle to Heat Their Homes

Three children died in Hammond, Indiana in January 2013 in a house fire when their parents used propane space heaters to heat their home. Andre Young was renting a house for himself, his wife and their five children but had been unable to pay their utility bills. Their water, gas and electricity had been cut off for several months.  When a spark from the propane heater engulfed the house in flames, Andre ran inside to try and save his children, all under 7 years old. He was able to save two children before he collapsed in the snow outside of the house. A 4-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a seven month old baby died. Andre was sent to hospital in critical condition.

The average family in Indiana spends $530 on heat between November and March, but that cost would have been much higher this winter. The combination of the cuts to energy assistance and the abnormally cold winter has left many families unable to cover the cost of heating their homes.

Choosing Between Health and Food

In 2013, Congress cut spending on food stamps and 47 million Americans lost food stamp benefits. The high cost of heating during this year’s polar vortex has left many poor families having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their kids. There has been an increase in the use of food banks and soup kitchens this year. Feeding America recently reported that 46 percent of its clients have to choose between paying for food and paying heating and other utility bills.

– Elizabeth Brown

Sources: Huffington Post, Huffington Post, Think Progress, Salon
Photo: Midtown Blogger